Yossy Arefi salad

Ever wonder why the cookbook photo of the dish looks so much better than what you just served — even though you followed the recipe to the letter? Well, over the past few years as a food writer/Instagram enthusiast, I’ve realized that…

…a lot of the beauty of a dish comes from how the components are sliced, especially when it comes to vegetables and salads. There are a few techniques that have brought me ridiculous amounts of satisfaction, with barely any effort expended. Here how to do it.

Yossy Arefi tomatoes

Take tomatoes for instance. I swear, ever since I learned to cut the little grape ones horizontally into quarters (right) as opposed to halved across its belt (left), it has upgraded the way my everyday salads taste.

Yossy Arefi snow peas

And eating a properly sliced snow pea has the same effect. Instead of chopping them into graceless squares (left), I now slice them into thin strips lengthwise (right). It’s a little fussy and you might be questioning your sanity as you do so, but persist! I promise they will taste better when their consistency is crispy as opposed to chunky.

Yossy Arefi cucumbers and radishes

With vegetables like cucumbers and radishes, I like slicing them thin to the point of translucent. When they’re thicker (left), they dominate whatever forkful they find themselves in. Plus, they look so graphic in rows atop a salad before you toss it. (You would be forgiven if “graphic” is something you never considered missing in a salad until now.) To get the half-moons, I halve the whole vegetables before slicing.

Yossy Arefi carrots and scallions

When it comes to long skinny things, such as carrots and scallions, you can’t go wrong with slicing on the bias (right). That means your knife is angled, almost-but-not-quite parallel with whatever vegetable you are cutting.

Yossy Arefi avocado

If you learn only one thing from this post, let it be the proper way to slice an avocado, measured strictly by the “look-at-those-avocados!” compliment you receive when serving it to someone. In darker days, I used to slice the flesh right in the shell in a grid pattern (left) which no one will arrest you for, but once I learned how to fan the insides (right) a whole new world of pretty opened up. To do this, halve your avocado the normal way, peel off the skin, then slice the half, cut-side down, into thin strips.

how to make a beautiful salad (before and after)

Does the one on the left look bad, per se? No, of course not; we’d all be crazy not to dig into it immediately. But, by comparison, don’t you just have an uncontrollable urge to click the like button a thousand times when you see the one on the right? That avocado! Those radishes! Someone get me my phone… and a fork.

P.S. Breakfast salad, and my sister’s killer salad recommendation.

(Photos by Yossy Arefi for Cup of Jo.)